Home > Food Fitness Part One > Cooking for your Health

Cooking for your Health

Food Fitness. Nourish your body.

To adjust to healthier eating habits, you really need only learn to use smarter cooking techniques as well as better choices when you eat in restaurants. Most techniques can be applied to the recipes you make now so you will still be able to enjoy your favorites but in a more healthy fashion.

The Smart Cook

Let's face it - fat adds flavor. That is most likely why we enjoy it so much. However, there are ways to add flavor and remove fat! Look at this as a new challenge as well as an opportunity to awaken taste buds you never knew you had! Try using spices, herbs and condiments. You may just be pleasantly surprised at the new taste sensations you will discover.

Egg frying in non stick skillet When you saute or stir-fry, you do not need as much fat as many have become accustomed to using. By using a non stick skillet or wok and nonstick cooking spray, you cut out tons of fat and calories before you have begun with the food! An even better choice would be to grill your food or for tender cuts of meat, broil it instead of sauteing or pan-frying.

When you do have to use some fat, use it sparingly. Stick to olive oil whenever you can. To add flavor during cooking, try using fat-free salad dressing, marinades, mustard, chutney, fruit preserves or salsa. This will keep the food moist in place of the fat doing so.

Fresh Vegetables When a recipe calls for sauteing or browning vegetables or meat, use your nonstick cooking spray. If you cannot help yourself, add no more than a teaspoon or so of olive oil, butter or margarine. Add a couple teaspoons of liquid, cover the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. Once your food is done, drain off any excess fat then add your remaining ingredients. In addition, trim off all visible fat from your meats and skin from poultry. If you are using tuna, only use tuna packed in water.

To reap the most nutritional rewards from your vegetables, cook them quickly. This also preserves their texture. Steam, stir-fry, roast or microwave them. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness so if you can take the time, this is the best way to cook them. In addition, leave the skins on, both on fruits and vegetables. This preserves fiber and nutrients.

Learn to watch your salt/sodium intake. It is not necessary to add salt during cooking, contrary to popular belief. The only item you may wish to add about 1/2-teaspoon to would be when boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes. Did you ever forget to add some salt when cooking your potatoes for mashing? It's horrible! However, in most vegetables you can add the salt at the table.

Consider trying low-sodium products, as well. When using broths, purchase low-sodium versions. You can use these for stir-frying, sauteing, braising, or poaching meat or fish. Always rinse and thoroughly drain shrimp and vegetables before you add them to your recipe. This will remove much of the salt.

Quick Tips to Make Your Meals Lighter Without Sacrificing Flavor

Learn to use less meat in your meals.  When you do use meat, keep the portions down. Suggested serving sizes are two to four ounces per serving.

  • Add pasta, rice, beans, vegetables or fruit to make up for the missing meat.
  • Use fat-free or light salad dressings, Parmesan cheese, mozeralla cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, skim milk, pasta sauces and fruit spreads. These products are actually quite good these days! And you get used to them in short order.
  • Love sausage, bacon or ham? Use turkey based versions. Ham you can purchase in very lean varieties - do it!
  • Only purchase meats with word "loin" or "round" in the name. These are the leanest cuts.
  • For ground beef, go with the "round" - ground round, that is. It has much less fat. Also, in dishes called for browned hamburger but consisting of other ingredients, use 1/2 the amount you usually do. For example, in Hamburger Helpers. You do not have to use an entire pound to get the same flavor. One-half pound will suffice. Doesn't hurt the budget, either!
  • Incorporate more turkey or chicken breast meals. There are umpteen ways to perk up the flavor so you are not stuck with a bland meal.
  • If you are time-stressed, purchase extra-lean deli-slices of turkey or roast beef. Rotisserie-style chicken is an excellent choice, as well.
  • Substitute whole-wheat flour for 1/2 the flour in all your recipes. This adds fiber and other nutrients.
  • When you purchase breads and/or grains, check the label to be sure it has whole-wheat or other whole-grain flour as the first ingredient.
  • Use a variety of grains. Good choices include couscous, barley, brown rice, oatmeal, rye, wild rice, bulgar, whole-wheat pasta, corn tortillas, and rye crackers.
  • Use fresh and dried fruits in desserts and other dishes. You can add them to just about anything that sounds good to you. You can puree them for sauces, salads, cold pasta dishes, side dishes, casseroles or meat stuffings.
  • Use more of dark green, leafy vegetables. Add spinach or kale to sandwiches, salads, vegetable dishes, and stir-fries.
  • Use shredded cabbage, especially red cabbage, as a high-fiber addition to salads, stir-fries, sandwich fillings, soups, and even meat loaf.
  • Incorporate apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, peaches, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, spinach, broccoli, and Swiss chard. These are high in Vitamin A, among other nutrients.
  • For creamy soups, dips and sauces, replace high-fat ingredients with nonfat yogurt, nonfat sour cream or nonfat/light mayonnaise.
  • Never use whole milk again! Use skim, buttermilk and/or evaporated fat-free milk. Yes, even in sauces, soups and other baked items.
  • Use egg substitute in all dishes - baked or cooked. Alternatively, you can use two egg whites to equal one egg.
  • Use only fat-free refried beans and regular beans. One would not think of beans as laden with fat, but some are due to the addition of meat flavor or some such thing. Watch the labels. Non-fat beans do not taste any different in your dishes than those with fat.
  • If you find using canned fruit more convenient, purchase only those packed in water or their own juices.
  • Watch for high fiber cereals. Read cereal labels, too, watching the serving sizes carefully. They can be very misleading.
  • Go easy on avocados, coconut and cheese (unless light or fat-free).

Print Quick Tips (New window)

Healthy flavor enhancers you may wish to keep on hand:

Herbal flavors and seasonings

Orange juice
Reduced-sodium soy sauce
Less Sodium Teriyaki Sauce
Low-calorie fruit spreads
Red and green onions or shallots
Salsas -- all types
Fresh cilantro
Fresh parsley
Fresh or dried herbs, from basil to thyme
Curry powder
Fines herbes
Cajun seasoning
Beau Monde Seasoning
Bottled Hot Pepper Sauce
Salt-free herb seasonings in a variety of flavors
Lemon-pepper and garlic-pepper seasonings
Fat-free salad dressings
Mild-flavored vinegars, such as balsamic, rice, or raspberry
Fresh garlic
Grated fresh ginger
Grated citrus peel (lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit)
Mustard -- any type you prefer
Fresh or canned chili peppers; your preference

Print List

You may also find of interest...